Las Cruces medical volunteers help with COVID-19 vaccine, migrants

LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps grew out of necessity to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the body has grown from around 2,000 volunteers to around 7,400. MRC state coordinator Bobbie MacKenzie said that at one point, as many as 200 new volunteers were deployed weekly across New Mexico.

The Medical Reserve Corps is a division of the state health department, fully funded by the federal government, made up of both medical and non-medical volunteers. Statewide, MRC volunteers assist with both planned health events and ongoing crises.

Online, the New Mexico Department of Health says the MRC’s mission is “to increase local community health and medical services during a disaster, public health emergency, or disaster. community public health with pre-identified, trained and accredited volunteers ”.

There are hundreds of RCN units across the United States and thousands of corps volunteers, MacKenzie said.

In New Mexico, MRC volunteers typically provide medical support during the Bataan Memorial Death March held annually at White Sands Missile Range. In 2019, MRC members performed health checks, treated and obtained medication for an influx of asylum seekers dropped off in Las Cruces by the US Border Patrol.

Volunteers help those waiting to be vaccinated at the Las Cruces Convention Center in Las Cruces on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, their help has been widespread. MRC volunteers learned how to swab people for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, helped with contact tracing, supported nursing homes and food banks, and treated infected first responders who had been housed in shelters. hotels serving as isolation shelters.

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These days, residents who get their COVID-19 vaccine at the Las Cruces Convention Center can expect to meet several members of the MRC throughout the process. A member of the MRC can take your temperature when you arrive, and you will likely be directed by one of the MRC volunteers who directs foot traffic inside the facility.

A medically trained CRM volunteer can even get you vaccinated. And it is also likely that they will observe you in the waiting room for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving your dose.

Kathleen Elliott, Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, is pictured during a vaccination event at the Las Cruces Convention Center in Las Cruces on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Kathleen “Kit” Elliott, who said she helped found the MRC New Mexico, is a trained disaster nurse. She said a lot of people volunteer with MRC outside of their full-time job or while in school.

“It’s a mission that comes from the heart,” Elliott said.

On June 16, MacKenzie trained a group of volunteers from El Calvario United Methodist Church to prepare for more potential migrant arrivals in Las Cruces, as in 2019.

“One thing we learned (during 2019) is that training is needed,” MacKenzie said. “That’s why we are doing this training now.

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The state coordinator said the volunteers were trained in incident command, cultural differences, recognition of human trafficking and medical protocols.

Elliott said the asylum seeker crisis in 2019 prepared the body to respond to the pandemic a year later.

MacKenzie agreed.

“Every volunteer opportunity is an opportunity to learn,” said MacKenzie.

You do not need any medical training to be part of the MRC. As Mackenzie said, “There is something for everyone.”

But for some, it’s a way to continue their existing medical work.

Duane Roberts, Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, is pictured during a vaccination event at the Las Cruces Convention Center in Las Cruces on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Duane Roberts has been at the MRC since November 2020. A registered nurse, Roberts said he worked with COVID-19 patients in hospitals and nursing homes before his volunteer work with the body, but needed some help. a change.

Roberts said he left Alaska for New Mexico after 21 years as an Air Force medic. He went to nursing school to continue his medical work, which he said gave him “the satisfaction of serving others.”

“Nursing seemed like the natural progression,” said Roberts.

The next progression for Roberts was the body. Since November, Roberts has been working on a Native American reservation north of Santa Fe and at a COVID-19 hotel refuge in Albuquerque, he said.

Beginning in March, Roberts began working on vaccination events in southern New Mexico. At the convention center, he is authorized to administer vaccines, but also to enter data and supervise the observation area of ​​the establishment. He also volunteered at Hatch and Deming, he said.

Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, [email protected] or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.

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